Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is Mexico Taking the MLS Seriously?

Thanks to Superliga, they might be:
In Mexico, the conventional wisdom regarding Major League Soccer runs something like this: It's the United States, so it must not be good.

Ask any Mexico-based footballer their impressions of MLS before they've competed with or against an MLS club and they'll admit they know little about the league. Once they've played against an MLS club, though, most of them seem to realize the same thing.

"These teams are fast and their football has improved quite a bit," Santos midfielder Fernando Arce said.

MLS may not be highly respected among Mexican soccer supporters and media but a growing number of Mexican clubs are experiencing the American league firsthand. Through such events as SuperLiga, Mexican coaches and players are leaving with positive impressions of the ever-growing league.

"There is a good level here," Pachuca coach Enrique Meza said. "The soccer here is fast-paced and of an important caliber."
In this year's competition, each team is there on merit (as opposed to last year when MLS clubs were essentially handpicked by the league). New England is the only team to go unbeaten in the group stage, winning over both Mexican sides Pachuca and Santos Laguna and drawing with Chivas USA. Houston won their group on the backs of a healthy goal differential of +5. Right now, I think New England would be the favorite to win this, the combination of their English style of play, suprising depth, and very consistent play makes them a threat. The only think that New Englans will be missing in teh semi-final and final is Michael Parkhurst who is in Beijing. Other than that, I don't see much standing in their way of winning.

I think having an MLS club win this year is important in order to keep fan interest in the tournament alive.

Interesting side note, New England could make it a quadruple this year. They are in the semis of Superliga, the U.S. Open Cup, and must be considered the leading candidate for winner of the Supporter's Shield and a strong candidate to win the MLS Cup. They would be the first MLS club to do it and I have to say, I like their chances.

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